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The Season Has Hardly Begun, But the Playoffs Are Already a Hot Topic

1 May, 2003 By: Thomas K. Arnold

With the summer movie season fast approaching, video prognosticators are predicting a slam-dunk fourth quarter even before the first of the summer blockbusters rolls out in a few weeks.Matrix Reloaded, which opens theatrically May 15, will surely be one of the biggest DVD sellers of the year, and of all time. A video release date, of course, hasn't been set, but most pundits predict a fourth-quarter release, ideally in time for the theatrical bow of Matrix No. 3.The preliminary slate for the fourth quarter already includes a good number of heavy hitters, including The Lion King (Oct. 7), the biggest-selling videocassette of all time.And with DVD increasingly dominating the home video — my hunch is this will be the final year for VHS to even matter — everything's coming out at one low price, making it easy for retailers to sell, rent or do both.But conversations in Hollywood as well as Retail Land aren't limited to the wads of cash most everyone expects will come streaming in. There's still a specter of uncertainty clouding our collective visions of sugarplums, and much of that uncertainty has to do with that onerous “P” word, pricing. I'm still hearing rumblings that some studios are seriously mulling a two-tiered pricing strategy similar to the old (and, as far as I'm concerned, antiquated) VHS model.God, I hope not. Tinkering with the successful DVD sales model would be the biggest mistake Hollywood could make, and I honestly don't think anyone would be foolish enough to give it a go.I firmly believe we're going to see a rental resurgence, as avid DVD buyers fill up their shelves/cabinets/shoeboxes and start getting more selective.But that doesn't mean we should see a comeback of rental pricing. It's simply too late — consumers have grown accustomed to being able to buy movies the moment they arrive in stores and, even if there's a title they don't necessarily want to rush out to buy, they don't like being told they can't.

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